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Market Research - Hay Drying Machine

alfalfa horse small square equipment hay

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#1 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 08:29 AM

I have a market research question for hay producers, particularly those raising hay for horses.  We have about 40 acres of alfalfa/orchard grass from which we bale about 10,000 small square bales a year for sale to people with horses (except any bad hay we round bale and feed to the cows).  
 
We have found that it is becoming increasingly difficult to dry alfalfa hay evenly while still maintaining color and keeping the leaves.  Usually, when the hay on top looks dry and ready to go, there is some higher moisture hay underneath that will be enough to make the bales, well, questionable.  Our typical process is to mow the hay in the morning (with a mower conditioner), ted the hay the next two mornings after the dew comes off, then rake the hay the next morning after the dew comes off, and bale it that evening so that we can just barely get done before the dew starts coming in.  Sometimes on baling day we will ted it in the morning and rake it in the afternoon if it we thought it wasn't going to be totally dry.  Maybe the weather changed or maybe I'm crazy, but it seems harder to dry the hay than it was 20 years ago.  
 
I'm wondering if anyone else is having this issue, note that we live in KY and have humid summer days and generally get a heavy dew at night.  Most of our customers are very against any type of preservative, such as proprionic acid or those other preservatives that use some type of active bacteria to prevent mold.
 
So the question:  If there were a machine that would dry small square bales from 30% moisture down to 15% in 12 seconds, would you be interested in purchasing it?  The machine could either hook to the back of the baler, or be pulled through the field to pick up the bales, dry them, and put them back down (or on a trailer, etc.).  For the sake of this research, let's just assume that such a machine exists and works as good as advertised.  The return on investment could be relatively high, given the improved hay quality (and higher sale prices).  The hay would be dry with more leaves, better color, and fresher smell.  It would be all natural, with no foreign substances being added to the bale, and the bale would not be heated over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  It may even save you a trip or two across the field with the tedder.  
 
How much would you be willing to pay for such a piece of equipment?  


#2 PaMike

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 09:49 AM

There are way to many variables in this question. How many bales per hour can this machine dry? What are the variable costs such as fuel for the dryer?

To be honest I dont think you can pull moisture from 30 to 15 in 12 seconds without the bale catching fire...


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#3 FarmerCline

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:13 AM

For a short answer I would say yes that I could be interested in such machine.

In reality though I don't see it possible to be able to dry a bale in 12 seconds and it never get heated over 100 degrees. To me a somewhat more realistic approach to a hay drying machine would be something that would dry the hay before its baled. I'm thinking something like a machine that would have a pickup like baler but the hay would go through a heat chamber/oven before being deposited back onto the ground for the baler to then come by and bale it. An issue would be keeping the hay from catching fire since the heat would have to be very intense to dry the hay quickly enough to be efficient. Then the hay would probably to too crispy dry to bale(especially with alfalfa) so some form of steamer/humidifier would be needed after it goes through the drying chamber before it could be baled. I'm thinking that the dryer and steamer would be best as a single machine that would deposite the hay back on the ground ready for the baler and bale collecting system to come right behind it. With all the technology available I'm sure something similar to this could be invented but I'm not so sure at the end of the day how realistic and cost effective it would be for the average farmer/hay producer to own and operate.
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#4 Three44s

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:21 AM

Out west we have the opposite problem: Searching for dew

I will bale at elevated moisture intentionally with preservative to reduce leaf losses rather than beat all of them off.

I use a dry product from Pioneer called Alfalfa Innoculant applied through a Gandy box. It is touted as working to moisture as high as 25% and I have had it work higher than that. Specifically I wanted a product that held hay with stem moisture and this product works to around 20% in that case.

Most of my customers feed horses and I have used this on hay for over 20 years without a compliant.

One caution is that you need to have alfalfa stands that are free of grasses and weeds. If they are present at more than trace levels this product will not work.

Three44s

#5 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:42 AM

Hi everyone, thank you for your responses!  Here are a few more points: 

 

It may take longer than 12 seconds, but the machine would have several bales in at a time, so the average time per bale would be 12 seconds (i.e., 300 bales per hour), which we have found is about as fast as our baler can bale the small squares (I think they are 14x18x40).  

 

Three44s:  The machine would work equally well with stem moisture, dew moisture, or any other type of moisture.  Even moisture trapped in the big weed stems.

 

Again, let's not argue whether it is possible or not, and just assume the machine exists and works (and you have seen demos).  I just want to know if there would be a market.  Based solely on the increased value of the hay, not to mention the reduced risk due to rainy weather, reduced stress in knowing that every bale is dry (even the ones under the tree line, no sorting required etc.), how much would you be willing to pay for such a machine?



#6 hog987

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:43 AM

I have been thinking of an idea to dry hay. If things ever slow down here want to do some experiments so see how will it will work.

#7 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:53 AM

Also, I forgot to mention (thanks  PaMike) , let's assume the device requires 20-30 HP to operate at 300 bales per hour.  So, however much fuel that corresponds to, but not much different (possibly less) than most pieces of equipment.



#8 swmnhay

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:56 AM

I've seen pics of a prototype machine that uses microwaves to dry the hay.IDK if its feasable or even workable.I think it was in Farm Show IIRC

 

found it.


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#9 slowzuki

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 11:07 AM

Can't beat thermodynamics- the cost to run dryers be it microwave, dehumidifier, solar, heated air, forced air all add a serious cost to the bale of hay. The time to do such drying is also limited to certain rates.

Machine is neat idea but many have gone before you in this area and if you take a look around, the marketplace has not adopted them to a large extent.
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#10 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 11:37 AM

Can't beat thermodynamics- the cost to run dryers be it microwave, dehumidifier, solar, heated air, forced air all add a serious cost to the bale of hay. The time to do such drying is also limited to certain rates.

Machine is neat idea but many have gone before you in this area and if you take a look around, the marketplace has not adopted them to a large extent. 

 

Yeah, my idea is quite different from all of those.  I've worked out the thermodynamics and everything seems feasible.  I actually already have some backing on this project and am in the proof-of-concept stage.  I can already make the case for why the technology can work, however, in order to get further backing, I need to show that there is truly a market for such a device (these investors are not farmers) and what the potential revenue stream may look like.  For the obvious reasons, I'm not really willing to divulge any of the secret sauce as to how it might work at this point.

 

So, let's just go back to making assumptions that such a piece of equipment does exist and that it works.  Would you be willing to spend your hard earned money to purchase one?  How much would the machine be worth to you?

 

Thank you for taking the time to help.



#11 Trillium Farm

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:03 PM

Can't beat thermodynamics- the cost to run dryers be it microwave, dehumidifier, solar, heated air, forced air all add a serious cost to the bale of hay. The time to do such drying is also limited to certain rates.
Machine is neat idea but many have gone before you in this area and if you take a look around, the marketplace has not adopted them to a large extent. 

Yeah, my idea is quite different from all of those.  I've worked out the thermodynamics and everything seems feasible.  I actually already have some backing on this project and am in the proof-of-concept stage.  I can already make the case for why the technology can work, however, in order to get further backing, I need to show that there is truly a market for such a device (these investors are not farmers) and what the potential revenue stream may look like.  For the obvious reasons, I'm not really willing to divulge any of the secret sauce as to how it might work at this point.

So, let's just go back to making assumptions that such a piece of equipment does exist and that it works.  Would you be willing to spend your hard earned money to purchase one?  How much would the machine be worth to you?

Thank you for taking the time to help.

There are so many variables, how many acres per day could your machine do? that has to be factored in, also the price must be just right as it will add to the cost of production and if above a certain level it becomes cheaper to import hay from other areas. Great idea though.



#12 stack em up

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:21 PM

Short answer for me would be no. If it can't dry big squares, doesn't do me any good. Good luck with your venture though!
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#13 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:45 PM

Trillium Farm:  The machine could dry 300 bales per hour, so depending on how thick your hay is, you would have to calculate how many Acres/hour that would be.

 

stack em up:  The first iterations of the machine will focus on small square bales, but the idea should apply equally to large square bales and round bales.  

 

I guess it is too early to ask the yes or no question of "would you buy it."  So how about we rephrase the question:

      1.  Would you be interested in purchasing such a machine?

      2.  How much would you expect such a machine to cost?

 

Thanks



#14 Jay in WA

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:47 PM

Build it so it drys the windrow and uses the moisture to soften the leaves.  Need to be able to pull a large square baler behind it.  Look at the Stahelli Steamer as an example.  As long as the operating cost is low enough I would be interested in buying one.

 

How much moisture is it capable of removing?


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#15 slowzuki

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:49 PM

Just to add, continuous vacuum drying of hay has been tried as well since that's almost the last option. Hint, also energy intensive. 😉

#16 Jay in WA

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:53 PM

I don't know what your little bales weigh but if they are 50 lbs 300 bales per hr is not much hay.  Needs to be at least 30 tons/hr.  This will be an expensive machine so your market is going to be large growers with big equipment and lots of tons to bale.  If I could reduce the drying time by 2 or 3 days, bale perfect leaf retention, and get the pivots back on sooner its worth quite a bit to me.  I have to be convinced first though.



#17 Dadnatron

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:57 PM

I would be willing to purchase this machine, however, price is a difficult thing to assess. Dependability, reliability, simplicity, and 'high moisture' max input would all be determining factors.

 

But, I would say, if I could guarantee that all my hay would be out of the field in 2-3

days via this machine, it would be worth $1/bale if it allowed me to sell that bale for $1 more given consistently better quality. So, $5-6K/yr with a minimum of 7yr essentially breakdown 'free or minimal' lifespan. I'd pay $20-30K with a 5yr bumper to bumper warranty.



#18 paoutdoorsman

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 01:03 PM

What would the duty cycle/life expectancy of this machine be?

 

And do you have any information on maintenance cycles/costs?


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#19 KyHay111

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 01:17 PM

Thank you guys for all of your input!  

 

paoutdoorsman:  At this point, sadly, I do not have any of that information on maintenance cycle/costs.  All I can say is to assume that you can expect at least 200 hrs of operation (so about 60k bales) with no breakdowns and minimal maintenance.  I understand that everything is being super optimistic but (I think) that is how most market research goes (it always seems to me like market projections are overly optimistic).  

 

Like I said before, I would just like to get some assurance that if the product were available, there would be a market for it.  



#20 Teslan

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 01:31 PM

I'll trade my NH tedder for one of these things.   For me mounting such a thing before a rake also would work.  Oh I didn't read how it would work.  No thanks not interested.  


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